Sunday, November 21, 2010

2. Svadhyaya: Renew the Mind Then Deny Yourself.

The Art of Study
Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power
- Tao Te Ching 1
With svadhyaya we move inward to the realm of the mind where we can begin to study our authentic selves.  With tapas we turn the body into a laboratory, now with svadhyaya we turn the mind into a telescope so we can see our own selves clearly.

Two excellent tools to "renew the mind"2 are the study of scripture and mantra repetition. Scripture provides a blueprint of your authentic self.  Without doing the "building" yourself the blueprint is not of much use.  The practitioner needs to bring the wisdom of scripture to life.  All scriptures have this as there aim, so any of them will do - yogi's choice!  There is nothing wrong with choosing just one and making that scripture more important that the others for your own journey to your authentic self, but we should respect others who choose to focus on other scriptures.  All scripture is equally sacred and equally flawed at the same time, as the written word can only point the practitioner to the way, it is not the way in and of itself.

Mantra repetition is used to focus the mind on one point; a one-pointed mind is a "renewed mind".  Our minds when allied with the ego want to be simulated constantly and scatter in all different directions clinging to vrittis, thought waves.  Repeating a mantra  can be helpful in breaking the mind's bond to vrittis and eventually the ego.  The mantra is best repeated silently, and can be any sacred word or phase of one's choosing.  For more on mantras I recommend Eknath Easwaren's book The Mantram Handbook.

How am I not my self?- I Heart Huckabees

It is necessary to "deny the self"3 that is ego based.  The ego-self attaches to all sorts of labels and thoughts and concepts, stuff we should deny.  My practice of svadhyaya should help attachment melt away. It is through these attachments that I become "not my self".  Which brings me to this clip from the film I Heart Huckabees. This is a pivotal moment for the nemesis in this movie, played by Jude Law, when his false ego-self is exposed.  This false self allowed him to get ahead in the corporate world.  His focus was to impress others while hiding his authentic self behind a mask.  After the false self is exposed by the light of self-study, he can no longer wear that mask and behave they way he has without making himself sick.

1. Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Chapter 33). Translated by Stephan Mitchell. Perennial Classics, 1988.
2.  see Romans 12:2
3.  see Mark 8:34

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